PBS Documentaries, NBC Campaign Highlight Education

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

In what its producers are touting as "the most exhaustive documentary series ever" to look at American education, the Public Broadcasting Service next week begins a five-part weekly series with the all-encompassing title "Learning in America."

The series will debut as officials of the National Broadcasting Company launch an initiative to throw the NBC network's communication might into a public-service campaign on the importance of education.

The three-year NBC plan was announced last week at a Washington press conference featuring accolades for the idea from prominent federal lawmakers.

Produced by the same company responsible for "The MacNeil/ Lehrer Newshour," the PBS series will examine such issues as the politics of school reform, how the U.S. education system compares with Japan's, the teacher shortage, and the consequences of inequality in the classroom.

The series' first hour is scheduled for national broadcast on PBS at 9 P.M. E.S.T. on Monday, March 27, with subsequent programs to be4shown at the same time for the next four Mondays. Viewers should check local listings, however, because not all public-television stations follow a uniform schedule.

Joe Quinlan, an Emmy Award-winning national affairs producer at the ''McNeil/Lehrer Newshour," is executive producer of the series.

"We're not crusaders; we're not out to change the world," he said of his staff's work on the series. "We are not going to offer any grand 10 things to do to work problems in the system out. We are really out to give a snapshot of the way things are."

Mr. Quinlan said the idea for the series grew out of education's increasing national prominence, which the producer feels began with the 1983 release of "A Nation at Risk."

"People are perceiving the issues in education in national terms," he said.

Mr. Quinlan also sought to fill what he described as a journalistic gap left by commercial television, which he said has "been getting out of the business of doing serious longer-form documentaries."

Over the last eight months, production crews for the PBS series have conducted more than 1,000 interviews in 21 states and in Japan and Europe.

The programs in the series are:

  • "The Education Race," which compares life at American High School in Fremont, Calif., with that at high schools in Yokohama, Japan, and gives a picture of how two U.S. companies are coping with the need for skilled workers.
  • "Upstairs, Downstairs," which looks at the disparities between well-funded public and private schools and poor urban and rural schools, and examines why many children "are falling through the cracks in the system."
  • "Teach Your Children," an exploration of the issues surrounding precollegiate curricula.
  • "Wanted: A Million Teachers," which examines the problems involved in attracting and retaining qualified teachers.
  • "Paying the Freight," an examination of the future of learning in America, weighing the question of whether more should be spent on reform or greater efforts should be made to allocate current funding more effectively.

The veteran newsman Roger Mudd is the host for the series, which features contributions fromel10lthe "McNeil/Lehrer Newshour" reporters John Merrow, Paul Solman, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

In choosing examples of education programs to highlight, Mr. Quinlan said, the series avoided a lot of the "sexiest stories that came along."

For example, its producers considered, but declined, doing segments on the celebrated New Jersey principal Joe Clark and Boston University's management plan for the Chelsea, Mass., school system.

"Those are things that get too much coverage, or are too idiosyncratic," Mr. Quinlan maintained, saying he hopes the content chosen for the series "can shake people up a little bit."

Further Network Exposure

The NBC public-awareness campaign announced last week is called "The More You Know."

With the help of an educational advisory board made up of representatives from leading education groups, the network's efforts will include public-service announcements with NBC stars, such as Rhea Perlman of "Cheers" and Jimmy Smits of "L.A. Law," and efforts to include education themes in its entertain4ment programming.

Network officials said they also planned to encourage local NBC affiliates to include more about education in news and community-affairs programs, and they promised that NBC News would carry more reports on the subject.

The campaign is designed to enhance "community and parental support for teaching as a profession and education as an institution," network officials said.

The network's president and chief executive officer, Robert Wright, was joined at the news conference by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Representative William Goodling of Pennsylvania, among other members of Congress, all of whom lauded the network's effort.

The campaign is scheduled to run for three years, with the first phase to attack youth drug and alcohol abuse.

Another producer of programming, cable television's The Learning Channel, was scheduled this week to launch "Education Today," a monthly program that will address education issues in a discussion format moderated by PBS's Mr. Merrow.

The premiere, featuring discussions of early-childhood education and student testing, was to air at various times on March 19, 20, and 21.

Web Only

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >